ATF Reclassifies Wetted Nitrocellulose as
Explosive Materials Under Federal Laws

By Justin Stakes. August 29th, 2016

Washington, DC -- In an Explosives Industry Newsletter issued in June 2016, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ("ATF") reclassified wetted nitrocellulose [also known as flash paper, flash cotton, guncotton, and flash string] containing greater than 12.6 percent nitrogen as a high explosive under the federal explosives laws.

As explained below, this is a dramatic and sudden change in agency policy with a significant impact on the ammunition industry. The new policy was announced in a newsletter without any opportunity for industry input. ..............

ATF's sudden and unexpected change in policy on wetted nitrocellulose will likely have a significant impact on industry's ability to deliver products to the military and commercial markets. Industry members have relied on the exemption for wetted nitrocellulose for many years and are aware of no accidental detonations or diversion of this product into illicit channels. Consequently, it is unclear why ATF believed it necessary to change its policy and, more importantly, why ATF announced the change in a newsletter article with no advance notice to industry. .......

Bad news often travels fast so many may already be aware of this bombshell issue. It appears yet again that while the administration wants guns banned, they probably consider their best approach is to interfere with peripheral elements, and what use is a firearm without ammunition. To define ammunition propellant as "high explosive" seems almost paughable as, unless contained, it only deflagrates (burns) quite slowly. Even when contained, pressures rise gradually and it does not normally detonate like a true high explosive.

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